Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer discusses Democrats’ major climate and health bill

President Biden on Tuesday signed the bipartisan CHIPS Act into law, just days before his top health care, tax and climate change bill known as the Inflation Reduction Act heads to the House, where it's likely to pass after proceeding through the Senate along party lines. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who played a key role in getting the bill passed, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we reported, President Biden signed the bipartisan CHIPS Act into law today. It's one of the legislative victories Democrats are touting this week, just days before the president's favored health care, tax and climate change bill, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, heads to the House, where it is likely to pass, after passing along strictly party lines in the Senate.

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, played a key role in getting the bill through that chamber.

    And I spoke with him earlier today.

    Leader Schumer, thank you very much for joining us.

    And before I ask you about the Inflation Reduction Act, I do want to ask you about this unprecedented raid by the FBI on former President Trump's home in Palm Beach. Were you or any other senior congressional leader briefed about this? And, if not, shouldn't you have been?

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY):

    Well, we were not briefed.

    And I don't know enough detail to make any determination there whether we should have or we shouldn't have been. And so I'm not going to comment on this until more information comes out.

    All I know is what all of us have read in the news media.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, let me just at least ask you two questions. One is about former President Trump's reaction. He's saying this is a sign of corruption in the Biden administration. He said it's a sign that the justice system has been weaponized in this country.

    Has it been weaponized?

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer:

    I'm not commenting until we get more information, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right.

    And then one other question. I understand what you're saying. We have the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, telling the attorney general, Merrick Garland, that once the Republicans take over the House, they're going to be investigating him. We have Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel saying to Americans, send us money, so we can elect more Republicans this fall.

    Is this going to be a problem for Democrats in the midterms?

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer:

    Look, I think commenting on this is premature for me or for anybody else.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, we're going to turn to the Inflation Reduction Act, Senator Schumer.

    I think many people are looking at this and they see a lot of numbers. They want to understand, what does it mean for ordinary Americans? What would you say to them?

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer:

    Well, it's probably the most significant and sweeping legislation for ordinary Americans in decades.

    It's going to mean a lot of different things. It's going to mean people's costs are going to be reduced. They're — we have been waiting for years to allow Medicare to negotiate with the drug companies to lower costs. And that's going to happen, and people's costs will be much, much lower.

    Insulin for people on Medicare will only be $35 a month, as opposed to the $600, $700, $800 it is now. Many more people will be able to get health insurance through ACA, and their costs will not go up.

    So, on the health care front, and one other thing, if you — no one will pay more than $2,000 a year for prescription drugs. So, if you're one of those people who has these very needed, but expensive medications that cost $500 a dose, you're going to be in much better shape.

    On the climate front, it is the most dramatic change in climate, fighting global warming we have ever had, but it's going to be lower costs for people. The average person's electric bill will go down close to $1,000 by 2030. People will pay less for appliances. They will be far more efficient and less expensive.

    And it will mean that we will close tax loopholes on the very wealthy, who have gotten away with this for a very, very long time. To boot, we create about nine million new jobs in the clean energy industry. And those will often go to people of color people, poorer people who haven't been able to get these jobs in the past.

    So this is going to mean a lot of things for a lot of people. And the fact, finally, that global warming will finally get a handle on it is going to mean that people will be more protected from the floods and hurricanes and fires and everything else that's been happening because of global warming.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    One aspect of this is drug prices, those lower prices, caps, on drugs that people now count on. Those don't go into effect until 2025. That's two-and-a-half years from now. The government negotiating with the pharmaceutical industry over prices doesn't take effect until 2025.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer:

    Right, but the two other things take effect far more quickly. The $35 cap on insulin takes effect right and 2023, as does the $2,000 limit on what anybody will pay for drugs.

    So it's going to have a lot of effects immediately and, in the longer run, even greater effects still. And once the pharmaceutical industry knows that they're going to have to negotiate, they may adjust accordingly ahead of time as well.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I want to ask you about one of the tax provisions, Leader Schumer.

    We know that Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema insisted that this provision that would have meant higher taxes on hedge fund and private equity managers be taken out. How does the Democratic Party say, we are the party of working-class, middle-class Americans when there continues to be this loophole for billionaires who are in private equity or in the hedge fund business?

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer:

    Well, look, Senator Sinema insisted it be taken out. The choice was take it out and not do all those other good things, or keep it in and let the bill die.

    But we substituted something that might be just as strong, if not better. We're putting a 1 percent tax on stock buybacks. These stock buybacks also help the corporate billionaires and the big, big hedge fund holders and things like that, because — and they do no benefit for people.

    They just make the stock price go up by having fewer shares. So, that brought in $70 billion against the very wealthy. And the carried interest loophole — and I was for getting rid of the carried interest loophole — was only 14.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, the Republicans, including your Republican colleagues in the Senate, right now who are out there saying the IRS with 87,000 more agents is going to be targeting middle-income Americans?

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer:

    Well, they're just — they're lying.

    And this is typical of Republicans. They just defend the very rich and then say they're defending the middle class. When they did the Trump tax cuts, they said they were for the middle class, but people learned the vast majority of them went to the rich. This is what Republicans want to do. And we have reversed it.

    And that's going to be welcomed by 90 percent of Americans.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator, the overall picture that this is a, what, 750-some-odd-billion-dollar bill, Democrats, for months, were pushing for either a $3.5 trillion and then a $1.75 trillion package. This went on for months.

    Why not settle for something like this sooner? It would have not only save time, but it would have meant the benefits that you're talking about would have gone into effect sooner.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer:

    Well, no one was ready to do it sooner.

    The bottom line is that we wanted to get as good a package as we could. Senator Manchin rejected even the $1.85 billion package with President Biden. And so I sat down with him, and we negotiated. It took us a while to get there.

    But just everybody, including the most progressive people — you looked at every senator, from Bernie Sanders to Joe Manchin — voted for this. Everyone thought this was a lot better than nothing. The choice was not this or something better, because Manchin and Sinema wouldn't have voted for anything beyond this, as much as I would have liked to go.

    The choice was this or nothing. And this is very significant, the most significant reduction in carbon into the atmosphere ever by legions more than we have ever done, finally dealing with prescription drugs, finally dealing with those loopholes that the wealthy get away with.

    This is very, very significant legislation. Now, it's easy to say, well, you should have done more or you should have done it differently. This is a really good package we're proud of. And the American people, by all polling data, 70, 80 percent support it. Even 40 percent of Republicans support it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Two other things, Senator Schumer.

    Would — has there been a lesson in all of this for you and other Democrats in dealing, frankly, with Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema when you're looking at other priorities for the Democrats?

  • Sen. Chuck Schumr:

    Well, I will tell you the overall lesson that I have.

    My dad passed away in November. He would have been 99 on Flag Day. And he taught me a lesson. He's still sitting here with me. Some of us who have lost parents we're close to, they're never very far away. And he taught me a lesson. He said, if you're doing the right thing, and you persist, in his words, God will reward you, and you will succeed.

    We kept persisting. We kept persisting with Senator Manchin. We kept persisting with Senator Sinema. And we got something, not everything everybody wanted, but something that's damn good. Persist, and you will succeed. Don't give up, and you will succeed.

    That's been my motto my whole life. And I think we have done some good things. And let's not forget, we did a lot of other things this month. The CHIPS Act, which the president just signed today, will keep the American economy number one and employ millions of people. We did the first thing in the PACT Act, the biggest thing for veterans health care in 10 years, so when they breathe in these toxins, they will be taken care of.

    For the first time, we have gotten some gun control legislation passed, not everything we wanted, but good. And, finally, we did a treaty where we let the two, Finland and Sweden, into NATO. This is all in six weeks. It's an amazing accomplishment. Easy to pick holes in it, but, boy, oh, boy, it's a lot more than any Congress has done in a long time.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, finally, Senator, let me ask you if that's going to make a difference this fall, because, as you know, respected analysts are saying that the Republicans are likely to take control of the House, and they may very well take over control of the Senate.

    Nathan Gonzales, who is one of those respected analysts, is saying the Republicans likely to pick up one to three seats in the Senate.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer:

    Well, some of the other analysts, FiveThirtyEight, another respected one, just said we're going to pick up seats in the Senate.

    I believe we will pick up seats for two reasons. First, the Republican Party has moved so far to the right. And people are seeing it after the court decisions in Dobbs on abortion and the other court decisions on guns and environment. They have seen it in the January 6 hearings, and they have seen it with just radical rhetoric and thoughts that come from the new MAGA Republican Party.

    About 20 percent of Republicans don't like this MAGA Republican Party. But then people say, OK, I don't like the Republicans, but Democrats, when they are in, can they get something done?

    And I think we have answered that question with a resounding yes in the last few weeks. I think it's going to help us. I think we will pick up seats.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How many?

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer:

    Oh, I'm not going to guess that. You got enough out me.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer:

    Thanks, Judy. Take care.

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